A public feud
Commissioner Matlow, city manager promise to move on amicably
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow isn’t doing any damage control and city manager Reese Goad is just hoping the two could maintain a cordial working relationship.
The chink in the relationship between the two city leaders occurred last week when Matlow gave Goad a poor evaluation, while calling for his ouster. Matlow said he had to call out the city manager at a time when ethics has become everyone’s favorite topic in city government.
Matlow’s peers call his use of social media to air his displeasure with Goad galling. At the same time, the Urban League has chosen to remain neutral in the controversy, while the NAACP is taking a wait-and-see stance.
Matlow insisted his claims and giving Goad a 1.4 rating out of a possible 5 is about transparency.
“It’s public record,” Marlow said. “The public deserves to know how we feel; and on this particular issue, the public needs to know how we feel.”
In his evaluation of Goad, Matlow hinted that Goad might have been tainted by some unethical issues with former commissioner Scott Maddox and the former city manager Rick Fernandez. Both have lost their jobs over ethical issues, Maddox making a guilty plea to corruption charges and Fernandez terminated over football tickets among other ethical concerns.
Matlow also claimed that some favored employees under Goad have been given perks such as purchase card expenses, and were sent to conferences where they spent lavishly. Others were simply intimidated, he said.
“Taking all of these factors together,” Matlow wrote in his social media post, “I’m left to believe that you may have been complicit in unethical actions taken by previous leadership and your office. I believe the city will be unable to restore public trust with you at the helm.”
Later, Matlow said during an interview that he and three others were elected or appointed to bring about change.
“When people say they want change in the city, you just can’t change the face of our elected officials,” he said. “We need to change the culture in city government. People know. Some people got stories. Some people got a gut feeling.”
Goad started in the city manager position 13 months ago. He was given a favorable review and saw his salary increased from $194,361 to $230,000.
Mayor John Dailey and the commissioners also evaluated three other appointed city government employees, including the auditor Dennis Sutton, treasurer clerk James Cooke and city attorney Cassandra Jackson.
Dailey has publically stated his support for Goad during an impromptu press conference last week.
Citing that the issues that Matlow raised occurred before he became city manager, Goad said city government is heading into a different direction from what Matlow brought up.
“Clearly, those were things he felt compelled to share but they are not germane to what we are doing now; what progress we have had over the last year,” Goad said.
Matlow and Goad confirmed that they met last week to talk through the issue. They agreed that they will try to work amicably with each other as professionals.
“Beyond that,” Goad said, “I wouldn’t want to delve into our private conversation.
“I don’t see an issue moving forward because my role is to be professional; to make sure I engage equally with the mayor and commissioners; provide them good information and recommendations.”
While Matlow’s charges against the city manager are scathing, his peers are wondering if the damage could ever be repaired.
“I’m not sure an apology will correct that,” said City Commissioner Curtis Richardson. “He may have gone too far.”
Richardson, who has been in state and local government for 20 years, said what Matlow did was a first. Richardson, who finished the last two years of Andrew Gillum’s term when he ran for mayor then won a four-year term in 2016, is the only member from the commission that hired Goad.
“Commissioner Matlow will just have to find a way to work with the city manager going forward,” said Richardson, who gave Goad a 5 on his evaluation.
Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox said she gave him a 4.3 rating because there are some things that she would like to see him do better.
She suggested that fixing their working relationship has to be a choice that Goad and Matlow make.
Williams-Cox said she hasn’t ever seen a public evaluation of a government employee. She briefly let Matlow know of her displeasure over how the evaluation was done, she said.
“In passing, I told him I didn’t agree with that method,” Williams-Cox said. “That wouldn’t have been the way I would have done it.
“They are going to have to figure out how to work together. You saw the fact that four commissioners went one way and one went the other. I’m not saying he (Matlow) needs to conform, but that should speak volume.”
While the both the Urban League and the NAACP are known for tackling civil rights issues, both organizations have been front and cent of social issues.
The Urban League issued a statement through its president Curtis Taylor on the Matlow-Goad spat. The Frenchtown-based Urban League has been working with city government to bringing change to the neighborhood.
“The Tallahassee Urban League has been working with commissioners, the city manager’s office, with staff in the city and we will continue to do that,” Taylor said in the statement. “We want to work with everyone focused on trying to make Frenchtown a better, safer place to live.”
Adner Marcelin, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said Goad and Marlow have to find a way to resolve their differences. He also praised the commissioners for expressing their First Amendment rights.
“I support their ability to say what they want feely without undue pressure,” Marceline said. “While some might disagree about the forum in which the announcement is being made, one thing we have to keep in mind is that the city commissioners are elected by the people and all the commissioners owe a sense of reporting and a duty to the constituents that have elected them to be fair but to be transparent.”